Outlander season 3 episode 4 review: The tale of William Ransom

William RansomWhen Outlander season 3 episode 4 aired on Starz Sunday night, we saw what was another brilliant performance from Sam Heughan — and also the terribly tragic tale of William Ransom.

Who is he? William Ransom is the child of young Geneva Dunsany and Jamie Fraser, who was born amidst chaos on almost every side.

The story began with Jamie Fraser stuck working as a groomsman at Helwater estate — going undercover with the name of Alexander MacKenzie — and doing his best to stay alive while still meeting here and there with Lord John Grey. He was in a precarious predicament in that it would be hard for him to venture anywhere else (the name of Red Jamie is still fairly well known), but he was also in a precarious position there. After all, young Geneva (played wonderfully by Hannah James) had taken a shine to him, and eventually also was able to figure out through Lord Melton that he was not who he said. She was set to marry a much older man in Lord Ellesmere through family politics, and wanted a sexual encounter of her own choosing before the wedding day.

Therefore, Geneva blackmailed “MacKenzie” into sleeping with her, knowing that he would not want to see anything happen to his family. The scene between the two may be one of the most uncomfortable sex scenes in the history of the series, and its result was also far-reaching: Geneva was pregnant, and her sister Isobel knew that she had never shared a bed with her husband.

Moments after her baby’s birth, Geneva died and the resulting chaos was extreme given her widower knew that the child couldn’t be his. All of this in turn led to Jamie firing off a gun soon at her husband Lord Ellesmere, leaving the baby’s perceived parents dead. Isobel was the only one left other than Jamie who knew the truth, and eventually the Helwater estate offered him a chance to end his sentence of servitude and go free. Yet, he remained in hopes of making more money for many years, and in the process developed a strong relationship with his son. When he left “Willie” did not take it well, but he realized that all things in life must change and he still had a future. (Who loved the wonderful relationship Heughan had with the boy, even if they only worked together for a short period of time?)

In the end Jamie did make it clear that he wanted someone to care for Willie with him gone; therefore, he went to John Grey offering himself up physically if he would look after the child. Lord John declined, saying that he did not want Jamie under such an arrangement; John Grey is also set to marry Isobel, which is great news in that he could take on the role of father to William without concern. Ultimately, young Willie will have a future, and it is under the care of someone who appreciates Jamie just as much as he does.

Things must change for Claire, as well…

For most of this episode, what we saw from Caitriona Balfe’s character was rather simple: Her doing everything that she could in order to find Jamie in the past. She had Roger and Bree at her side, and despite some forward movement and the uncovering of clues, the only thing that we learned midway through the episode was that Roger and Bree finally kissed for the first time (commence rejoicing).

As the story trailed off (to some beautiful music, by the way), we saw Claire realize that the time was right for her to move on with her life. She was fearful of chasing a ghost, and that’s all that Jamie was becoming. She left Scotland in the episode’s closing minutes; yet, we know that her departure is short-lived given that the reunion between her and Jamie will be here before you know it. Sometimes, you need to be presented with the biggest obstacles before you can overcome them!

Our CarterMatt Verdict

This was the best Sam Heughan performance of the season, and beyond that also the strongest season 3 episode to date. Our only regret was that it was not longer, given that you could’ve easily spent a good three or four episodes focusing solely on the story of Jamie at Helwater.

Alas, this is it, but we do believe that this was an exceptional bit of storytelling as Jamie’s life is finally starting to accelerate to the point where the Print Shop is nigh. We also must praise James once more for her delicacy playing the Geneva character — while she was far from a decent human being at times (especially with the blackmail), we do also recognize that some of her desires were a product of circumstance and a marriage forced upon her. This was a story anchored with many deft touches from a creative, directing, and acting standpoint. As we noted, the best of the season.

What was your take on Outlander season 3 episode 4?

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